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Over the past few weeks, we have been investigating a possible legal action against FIRSTPLUS as it is of consensus that the current complaints process is at times drawn out.  We have been lucky enough to have been approached by Claims Management, Debt Advice Companies and specialist solicitors and barristers.  They have each in there own right, made it abundantly clear as to the failings of how such complaints are addressed.  It is also clear that PPI Mis-Selling and Usury interest rates are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dealing with companies such as FIRSTPLUS.

The facts are that a Single Premium Payment Protection Policy is in most cases not worth the paper in which it is printed, and therefore most likely to be unfit for purpose, so most likely it was mis-sold.

However there are more important legal issues regarding the sale of a Payment Protection Policy and even the sale of the loan itself.  I will expand on these issues later.

So whats the process making a complaint to FIRSTPLUS and what can you expect in reply to these complaints?

This is not an overnight process, and you should be fully aware of what you are getting yourself into.  You will have to weigh up the pros and the cons, bear in mind that taking action against such a company could prevent you from getting a fair deal, for example; were you to lose your job, it is very possible that FIRSTPLUS will take into account the action against them and could result in them being less supportive should you get yourself into financial hardship.  Remember that your loan is secured on your property, and without the support of FIRSTPLUS it is likely that you could lose your home where you unable to keep up the payments on your loan.  You should therefore consider looking into the option of taking out seperate insurance policy that will not only cover you for your FIRSTPLUS loan, but will also cover you for all your other debts should the worst happen.  There are many comparison sites out there that will be able to quote for this, and could work out cheaper than what you are currently paying for your FIRSTPLUS Policy.

I think it only prudent that you should consider all your options and take note as to the worst that could happen.

Ok. So you have decided to read on.

For the moment I want you to forget all about reclaiming of the Payment Protection Insurance, and concentrate on getting the right information from FIRSTPLUS.  Below is a list of actions you could follow.

  1. Contact FIRSTPLUS and request a copy of ALL the information that they hold about you and your account.  This is called a Subject Access Request, and it is your right under law to request and receive this information.  FIRSTPLUS have a legal requirement to supply you this information within a timescale of 40 days.  Failing to provide this information is a CRIMINAL offence.  FIRSTPLUS can charge you no more than £10 for supplying this information to you, so it is always better to send a cheque for the £10 along with your request (Template Letters are Available)
  2. You can expect FIRSTPLUS to push the limits of the 40 days and may even request additional time, however the law is on your side, and you should therefore request that they comply.
  3. If FIRSTPLUS do not comply you can either send in a formal complaint to the Information Commissioners Office (http://www.ico.gov.uk) who will then force FIRSTPLUS to comply, you could also consider taking LEGAL action in court, we have access to a Panel of Solicitors and Barristers who can assist should this be required.
  4. Once you have all the information, go through it thoroughly to see if anything is missing, if you recall telephone calls made or letters sent or received that are not included then request this information.
  5. Once you are happy write to Firstplus citing Official Complaint, and state that you believe that you were not given the correct information in order for you to make an informed decision when taking out the payment protection and request that FIRSTPLUS refund the Payment Protection Premium in full plus the interest at the rate in which it was applied with a view of returning the loan to a state where it would likely of been were you not to have taken out the payment protection policy.
  6. DO NOT state reasons as to why you believe that you were not given the correct information.  The burden of proof lies solely in the hands of FIRSTPLUS to prove that you were given all the correct information.  FIRSTPLUS have 8 weeks in which to reply to your complaint, however they must acknowledge your complaint within 14 days.
  7. FIRSTPLUS will respond with either of the following:
    • A refund will be issued as requested
    • They will offer a settlement figure.
    • They will blame the broker stating that they are not responsible for the sale.
    • They will tell you that they are right and you are wrong and will issue you with a final response and tell you that you can refer this to the Financial Ombudsmen
  8. Should FIRSTPLUS not issue you with a full and complete refund you then have 3 options.
    • Take it to the ombudsmen for ajudication
    • Take Legal Action
    • Do Nothing
  9. FIRSTPLUS will attempt a myriad of reasons and excuses in order to delay any resolve.  Just remember that you have followed its complaints procedures and it is up to you how to respond.
  10. If you feel that FIRSTPLUS have not addressed the complaint fairly then send another letter of complaint stating that you feel that FIRSTPLUS have treated your unfairly with respect to the handling of your complaint.
  11. Taking the first complaint to the Financial Ombudsmen(FOS), can take up to a year for a resolve and they will only address the complaint from a regulatory point of view and not from a legal aspect.
  12. The alternative is to take legal action against FIRSTPLUS, which would be the preferred method for several reasons, the main reason is that a Solicitor or Barrister is able to address issues that would not otherwise be covered under a complaint to the Financial Ombudsmen, whats more is that Legal Precedence exists and therefore it is unlikely that the proceedings will be stalled by a “Test Case” requirement as seen with the recent bank charges issues.  The fact is that most lenders have not disclosed information to you the consumer that is a legal requirement under common law, which would result in you being unable to make an informed decision when taking out the loan and/or Payment Protection Policy.  Failing to disclose this information is in breach of its Fiduciary Duty and even in cases of it being introduced by a broker, the lender is party to said breach and therefore equally liable.
  13. You can of course fight this in court yourself, but, unless you are confident then it should be left to the professionals.  We can supply a list of Solicitors who will review your case to see if you have a chance for success and they could take on these cases at no cost to you as they can claim the costs from FIRSTPLUS in the event of a win.
  14. FIRSTPLUS has to look at each case from a Risk Management point of view, incorporating the costs of defending and the costs of loosing against the overall costs of the loan.  It is therefore possible that they will settle before the matter even reaches a court room.
  15. In the event that FIRSTPLUS does not settle, and the matter goes to court, then if the action is upheld in your favour it is entirely possible that not only could you have the refund of PPI, you could also have the entire loan rescinded or declared unenforeable.
  16. Now, back to the second complaint against FIRSTPLUS, with regards to being treated unfairly.  If you are unsatisfied with the response from FIRSTPLUS then you could then submit this to the Financial Ombudsmen for adjudication regardless of any ongoing legal action against FIRSTPLUS for your first complaint.

The suggestions above are in no way to been seen as legal or financial advice, and you should always consider your options by talking to organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or contact a solicitor in the first instance, many of which offer a free consultation.

If you have any questions then feel free to post them in the FORUM